Braised Chicken with Olives, Dried Fruit, Fennel & White Wine
This is one of those recipes you can say I've been playing with and perfecting for years. It has been one of my 'go-to' recipes when I have people over or when I cook with friends or family. It was even one of my recipes for my "One-Pot Dinners" class I used to teach.
What I love about this recipe is the flavour profile you achieve by combining dried fruit and olives, something so sweet with something so salty and briney. And when you add the dry white wine, the cumin and the fennel it just goes to a different level.
The original recipe I used to make was mainly just the dried fruit and the olives with the chicken, but I always felt like something was missing, the dish needed to be more hardy. For that reason when I was redeveloping this recipe last week, I decided to add the fennel, onion, celery and grapes. I think the addition of these ingredients really bring the dish together and make it the perfect fall/winter stew.
Just pair it with a simple couscous with some lemon and herbs and dinner is served. Try it and let me know if you agree! Enjoy!
Yield: 4-6 portions (depending on size of chicken pieces)
1 each Whole chicken cut into 8 pieces or simply 8 pieces of chicken (dark or white)
4 tsp Cumin, ground
4 tsp All-purpose flour
4 Tbsp Grape seed or vegetable oil
1 each Large white onion, diced medium
1 bulb Fennel, diced medium
4 stalks Small celery, diced medium
6 cloves Garlic, sliced
2 cups Mixed dried fruit (e.g. apricots, prunes, cherries, dates), pitted and cut similarly
1 cup Red grapes, seedless (optional)
1 each Large can or jar of green or mixed olives (about 400 g)
2 cups Dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Chicken or vegetable stock
To taste Kosher salt
To taste Fresh ground pepper
1/2 bunch Flat leaf parsley, chopped
If you bought a whole chicken, start by cutting it into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts cut in half leaving the wings attached). Cut excess skin and fat, but leave skin for flavour. Place chicken in a bowl and sprinkle with cumin and mix well using a pair of tongs and making sure the chicken is well coated with the cumin. Then add the flour and repeat until well coated. You can do this ahead of time, the longer the chicken had the cumin the more flavourful it will be.
In a heavy pot heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat (depending on stove). Add chicken presentation/skin side down and sear until golden brown, about 4 minutes. If you don't hear a sizzle when the chicken is added, it means that it is not hot enough, but don't have it too high for it to burn. Flip the chicken and brown for another 2-3 minutes - fight your urge to move the chicken until it comes lose from the bottom of the pot.
When brown, remove chicken from the pot and place in a bowl (the chicken it's not ready yet, but you need to sauté the vegetables). To the hot oily pot add the diced onion, celery and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until starting to get colour, around 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for a couple extra minutes.
Add dried fruit, grapes (optional) and olives and stir for a couple more minutes until fragrant.
At this point add the previously measured stock and wine. Scrape any crispy bits stuck to the bottom of the pot (deglaze). Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and return the chicken to the pot. Make sure not to submerge the chicken completely, leave the crispy skins slightly out of the liquid.
Cover the pot partially and simmer until the chicken is cooked through moving occasionally and making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, around 30-40 minutes (depending on size of pieces and time of searing). Check for doneness and for seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
If you want the liquid to be thicker, when the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the pot on to a platter and turn the flame up to reduce the sauce. After the sauce has reached the consistency you are looking for, top the chicken with it. This step is optional as you can also serve in the pot.
Serve with some cooked couscous, sprinkle with chopped parsley and enjoy immediately.
The times are calculated using bone-in chicken, if boneless chicken is used, times will change.
I recommend using pitted olives to make it easier to eat, but you don't have to.
Green grapes can be used, but the red ones will add more colour to the dish - better presentation.
Using a variety of dried fruit will add more layers and flavours to the dish. Make sure to cut the fruit to bite size and have them around the same size for them to cook evenly (e.g. dates, apricots and prunes cut in half; cherries and cranberries left whole; etc.)
You can buy a whole chicken and cut it yourself or buy chicken pieces, especially if you or your family have a preference between white or dark meat.